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We recently wrote about a buyer desiring his identity and sales price kept confidential at auction. Now, we discuss here the issues involved regarding a seller keeping his identity and sales prices confidential at auction.

It is now 3 years after Mr. Georges Wyatt purchased his long-desired painting. He now wishes to sell the painting at auction, and wants his identity and the final selling price to be kept confidential.

Mr. Wyatt discusses his wishes with an auctioneer. The auctioneer, Mrs. Joyner, tells Mr. Wyatt that while she can keep his identity confidential, the ultimate sales price will be another matter.

Mrs. Joyner’s auctions are widely publicized and frequently attended by reporters from both the United States and Europe. She informs Mr. Wyatt that the final selling price of his painting will be reported in the art community through websites, blogs, news articles, and the like. In addition, Mrs. Joyner informs Mr. Wyatt that the other bidders, particularly the runner-up bidder, will be privy to the final selling price, and not under her control to say if he or she publicizes the sales price.

Generally, a seller wishing to utilize auction marketing, such as Mr. Wyatt, will be able to keep his identity confidential and insist the auctioneer do the same. However, so far as the final selling price, an auction is not a suitable sales method for a seller desiring to keep the price confidential.

Would keeping a seller’s identity confidential effect market demand and the final selling price? Possibly. Some potential bidders would factor in the owner’s identity and other extrinsic issues in determining value. For instance, a bidder may bid more due to the fact Mr. Georges Wyatt previously owned this painting — as Mr. Wyatt is known for purchasing genuine, well-done pieces of art. Or, similarly a potential bidder may be weary of an item of this significance selling without the owner being identified — wondering since the seller doesn’t want to be disclosed, if there may be a latent problem or issue with the painting.

Another issue with the seller not being identified to the buyer is that if any warranty or guarantee is offered, such as that this painting is genuine, would typically be between the seller and buyer. While auctioneers do sometimes guarantee items to be genuine, or of a certain type or condition, these guarantees are usually extensions of the same guarantee the seller makes (or guarantees made on behalf of the seller,) and actionable more likely on the actual owner, rather than the auctioneer.

In this regard, seller identities could be withheld contingent upon there being no guarantee or warranty issues. Or, possibly the auctioneer would remain as the seller’s agent in such a case of claim, and represent the seller in such matters?

Finally, why might a seller want his identity and/or the sales prices kept confidential? Many sellers want their identity kept confidential so that buyers don’t contact them about issues, questions, and the like. In regard to Mr. Wyatt, he doesn’t want the new owner bothering him with questions on the painting’s origin, artist, era, or inspiration. He would prefer the final selling price not be disclosed so that others aren’t able to calculate his profit (or loss) on his purchase, and gauge his artistic or investment prowess.

Sellers desiring to utilize auction marketing should discuss any confidentiality issues with their auctioneer of choice to ensure their expectations are met.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, Keller Williams Auctions and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. His Facebook page is: www.facebook.com/mbauctioneer. He is Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School.